Tai Chi & Parkinson's Research

Tai Chi DVD Based on Parkinson's Research:

New Creation Tai Chi-Qigong For Walking, Balance & Strength 

Anna York's DVD, "Tai Chi-For Walking, Balance & Strength," is based on research that identifies the Tai Chi movements that are most beneficial in addressing the needs of those with Parkinson's, including balance, mobility, strength, and reducing falls. More benefits of Tai Chi are described in the research below. Anna York's other DVD's are also beneficial for Parkinson's and have been extensively tested in Tai Chi classes especially designed for those with Parkinson's (funded by National Parkinson Foundation Chicago Moving Day). 

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Tai Chi and Postural Stability in Patients with Parkinson's Disease

This study was chosen as a top story by Journal Watch Neurology

Exercise science professor Peter Harmer's publication in The New England Journal of Medicine has been selected as a Top 10 story of 2012 by Journal Watch Neurology. Harmer's study, "Tai Chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson's disease," was also recognized by the American Academy of Neurology as the most important advance in movement disorders research for 2012.

N Engl J Med 2012; 366:511-519
February 9, 2012DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1107911Fuzhong Li, Ph.D., Peter Harmer, Ph.D., M.P.H., Kathleen Fitzgerald, M.D., Elizabeth Eckstrom, M.D., M.P.H., Ronald Stock, M.D., Johnny Galver, P.T., Gianni Maddalozzo, Ph.D., and Sara S. Batya, M.D.

Web Link: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1107911#t=articleResults

Author discussion of study results:

We found that a program of twice-weekly tai chi for 24 weeks, as compared with a resistance-training program or a stretching program, was effective in improving postural stability and other functional outcomes in patients with mild-to-moderate Parkinson's disease. Tai chi training also significantly reduced the incidence of falls, as compared with the stretching program. Improvements in primary and secondary outcomes were maintained 3 months after the intervention, a finding that is consistent with prior research involving adults 70 years of age or older.13 No serious adverse events were observed during tai chi training, indicating the safety and usefulness of this intervention for persons with Parkinson's disease.

The improvement in maximum excursion with reduced deviation in movement, as shown on the posturographic limits-of-stability tests, suggests that tai chi training reduced dyskinesia by increasing the ability of the participants to adopt effective sway strategies (at the ankle or hip), engage in controlled movements with improved balance control near the limit of stability, or both. Clinically, these changes indicate increased potential for effectively performing daily life functions, such as reaching forward to take objects from a cabinet, transitioning from a seated to a standing position (and from standing to seated), and walking, while reducing the probability of falls. Similarly, the marked increase in gait velocity in participants in the tai chi group was associated with significant increases in stride length. These improvements in gait characteristics support the efficacy of tai chi in alleviating the bradykinetic movements associated with Parkinson's disease.

The tai chi protocol stresses weight shifting and ankle sway to effectively move the person's center of gravity toward the limits of stability, alternating between a narrow stance and a wide stance to continually change the base of support, increasing support-leg standing time and trailing-leg swing time, engaging rotational trunk movements with upright posture, and performing heel-to-toe (forward) and toe-to-heel (backward) stepping movements to strengthen dorsiflexion and plantar flexion. These inherent training features may have led to improved postural control and walking ability. Although these improvements indicate that tai chi would be effective in enhancing neuromuscular rehabilitation, the mechanisms behind the therapeutic change in participants' motor control and mobility remain less understood and warrant future exploration.

Falls are a common and sometimes life-threatening event in patients with Parkinson's disease.32,33However, to our knowledge, no clinical trial has shown the efficacy of exercise in reducing falls in this population. Thus, this study adds to the behavior-based treatment literature by showing that tai chi can effectively reduce the incidence of falls in patients with Parkinson's disease . . .

In conclusion, tai chi appears to be effective as a stand-alone behavioral intervention designed to improve postural stability and functional ability in people with Parkinson's disease

Tai Ji Quan Exercise for People with Parkinson’s Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Movement Disorders

Fuzhong Li. Tai Ji Quan Exercise for People with Parkinson’s Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Movement Disorders. Int J Integr Med, 2013,1:4. doi: 10.5772/56243

Corresponding author E-mail: fuzhongl@ori.org

This is a review article of recent results in clinical research regarding the efficacy of Tai Chi Chuan in addressing a variety of movement disorders. Below is a short passage from the research (permission is granted for use without restriction as long as there is proper citation.)

"In the past two decades, interest in the health benefits and therapeutic merits of Tai Ji Quan has grown among the biomedical  research  and  clinical  rehabilitation communities. It is now apparent that its unique features of  mind‐body  integration  (i.e.,  mind‐directed movements),  movement  kinematics,  and  inherent postural control mechanisms have made Tai Ji Quan both applicable  and  amenable  to  the  prevention  and/or treatment of various chronic medical conditions [14‐15], including  heart  failure  [16],  fibromyalgia  [17‐18],  and balance impairment [19‐20]. Therefore, translation of the original intent of Tai Ji Quan practice to  contemporary therapeutic applications aimed at preventing or reducing movement‐related disorders  clearly represents a  clinical innovation  with  potential  applications  in  modern behavioural medicine."

  1. Tai Ji Quan Exercise for People with Parkinson's Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Movement disorders (2013; International Journal of Intergrative Medicine)

  2. Tai Chi and Postural Stability in Patients with Parkinson's Disease (2012; New England Journal of Medicine)

  3. Transforming Traditional Tai Ji Quan Techniques into Integrative Movement Therapy: Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance (2014; Journal of Sport and Health Science )

  4. Implementing an Evidence-Based Fall Prevention Program in an Outpatient Clinical Setting (2013; Journal of American Geriatrics Society)

  5. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Patient-Reported Outcomes with Tai Chi Exercise in Parkinson's Disease (2013; Movement Disorders)

  6. Tai Ji Quan and Global Cognitive Function in Older Adults with Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Study (2013; Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics)


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